Gua Pian Green Tea has always held such a strong impression with us. Many green teas really do benefit from their subtlety. They’re almost shy. Take Mao Feng Green Tea, for example. Although Mao Feng is a green tea, it doesn’t really jump out and yell. Every time we drink Mao Feng, it’s almost like we get to know here a little more.
Gua Pian Green Tea comes right out and tells you who she is. And she is not shy about it.
Most teas come from the bud and the first two leaves at the tips of tea bush’s branches. These buds and tender leaves are the youngest parts of the plant. As we move further down the branch, the leaves get older, thicker, and tougher. Their stems go from a soft and tender green to a tough and fibrous brown. The bud and first two leaves serve as the source of most teas. Those older, thick leaves tend to start around the fifth leaf down. Meaning that there is some magic in between the traditional pluck and the bitter fifth leaf. This magic zone is where the leaves live that we use to make Gua Pian Green Tea.
The third leaf, sitting cutely in this magic in-between zone, is where we source Gua Pian. A cultivar called “Anhui #3 Xio Ye Zhong” provides the flavor that has impressed us the most. Why the name? Anhui is the province where this cultivar was developed. Xiao means small (pronounced Shyaow, almost like “ow” preceded by a “sh-y” sound. Shyow? Shiao? Shiau? Something like that. Ye means leaf (pronouced yeh), and zhong means bush (pronounced “jong”). A slightly more mature and developed flavor and aroma characterizes this tea.
The dry leaf is remarkable. First off, they exhibit a dark jungle green that is really unique. But, furthermore, they exhbit a very unique shape that is almost cylindrical. After plucking, these leaves are quickly pan-fired on big frying pans using what looks like wooden brooms. The leaves are quickly tossed, repeatedly, which leads to its famous shape. After this quick pan firing, the tea is quickly passed and tossed over lit charcoal.
This complex process, beginning with older leaves, moving through quick repeated brushings on the pan and aggressively roasted dry yields a very unique green tea. Big notes of butter give this tea a round, savory mouthfeel that cannot be replicated by any other tea, in our opinion. It edges toward the umami savoriness of Japanese green teas, but still offers the mellow sweetness that defines high end Chinese green teas. The surface of these leaves are also tougher than Japanese green teas. The leaf’s surface is made tough by the aggressive pan-firing and roasting. Whereas Japanese green teas tend to really suffer once the water goes above about 170*F, Gua Pian can hold higher temperatures and still yield a mellow cup.